America's soft power dysfunctions: When Arab problems are allowed to wash up on American shores

by Emad El-Din Aysha

* Even when it comes to old-fashioned coercive hard power, companies from Blackwater to Halliburton are increasingly taking over the army's job; whether building bases or using phosphorous weapons. And now Halliburton doesn't even pay taxes to the US government, shifting to Dubai of all places! Special thanks to Nancy Snow, Helen Rizzo and Nicholas Hopkins.

  1. Joseph S. Nye Jr., "The Challenge of Soft Power," Time, March 8, 1999.
  2. Joshua Muravchik, "Hearts, Minds, and the War Against Terror," Commentary, 113(5), May 2002, p. 28.
  3. For an account of the push and pull over post-Cold War US soft power and the debate over cultural-informational globalization, please see: Emad El-Din Aysha, "The Limits and Contradictions of 'Americanization," Socialist Register 2004, ed. Leo Panitch & Colin Leys (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2004), pp. 247-262.
  4. Please see Al-Ittijah al-Muakis, (The Opposite Direction). The quotes are my translation.
  5. Quoted in Jim Rutenberg, "The Struggle For Iraq: Hearts And Minds; Coming Soon to Arab TV's: U.S. Answer to Al Jazeera, Production Values and All," New York Times, December 17, 2003.
  6. Please see Magdi Khalil,"Why Did Alhurra Fail?," April 19, 2006, Middle East Transparent.
  7. Nicholas Hopkins, "The Debate about Development in India and Egypt," lecture presented at the American University in Cairo, December 7, 2005.
  8. Khalil, "Why Did Alhurra Fail?"
  9. Mamoun Fandy, senior fellow in Middle East policy at Rice University's Baker Institute, quoted in Khalil, "Why Did Alhurra Fail?"; my italics.
  10. Hishem Melham, Washington bureau chief of the Lebanese daily newspaper Al-Safir, quoted in Khalil, "Why Did Alhurra Fail?".
  11. James Dao and Eric Schmitt, "Pentagon Readies Efforts to Sway Sentiment Abroad," New York Times, 19 February 2002.
  12. James Bamford, "The Man Who Sold the War: Meet John Rendon, Bush's general in the propaganda war," Rolling Stone, 17 November 2005.
  13. Bamford cites a senior administration official involved in intelligence-budget decisions.
  14. See my article on this topic, "September 11 and the Middle East Failure of US 'Soft Power,'" International Relations, Vol. 19, No. 2 (2005), pp. 193--210. For a more empirical and exhaustive account of the state of public diplomacy and propaganda before and after September 11th, see Nancy Snow's Propaganda, Inc.: Selling America's Culture to the World (Seven Stories Press, 2002) and Information War: American Propaganda, Free Speech and Opinion Control Since 9/11 (Seven Stories Press, 2003).
  15. Rendon, quoted in Bamford.
  16. Twetten, quoted in Bamford.
  17. Laura Miller and Sheldon Rampton, "The Pentagon's Information Warrior: Rendon to the Rescue," PR Watch, vol. 8, no. 4, 4th Quarter 2001.
  18. Most of the money went to American "consultants" in London and the Middle East who made small fortunes that were used later to buy big houses in Washington neighborhoods or rent fancy offices for work unrelated to Iraq. Many in the CIA were in on the game themselves: "At the end of the year we—the CIA's Iraq Group -- had money left over, so we got instructions from the DO [the CIA's Directorate of Operations]: 'Well, go and spend it.' So we went out and bought brand new Jeep Cherokees... All the cars we had in the Middle East for the Iraqi program were going to the wives of the COS's [the chiefs of station].... It was a $150 million rip-off. Go up to northwest [Washington, D.C.] and look at those big houses, and you'll know how they got paid for." (Anonymous source quoted by Jeff Stein, "When Things Turn Weird, The Weird Turn Pro: Propaganda, The Pentagon And The Rendon Group," TOMPAINE.com, February 26, 2002.
  19. Annabelle Sreberny-Mohammadi "Global News Media Cover the World", in Questioning the Media: A Critical Introduction, ed. John Downing, Ali Mohammadi, and Annabelle Sreberny-Mohammadi (Thousand Oaks: Sage, 1995), 2nd edition, p. 435.
  20. Claude Moisy, "Myths of the Global Information Village," Foreign Policy, No. 107, Summer 1997, p. 81.
  21. Figures taken from Khalil, Why Did Alhurra Fail?"
  22. Please see Joel Mowbray, "Al-Hurra, US Funded Cable Network in Mid-East, Becomes 'Platform for Terrorists,'" posted by Lynn Davidson on March 22, 2007, Lynn Davidson's blog.
  23. There is, in fact, a long history of realist critiques of US foreign policy, and foreign policy thinking, from both sides of the Atlantic. For instance, Hedley Bull's classic article, "International Theory: The Case for a Classical Approach," World Politics, 18 (3), April 1966, pp. 361-377, and Hans Morgenthau's very aptly titled, Scientific Man vs. Power Politics (University of Chicago Press, 1946). This debate over the scientific validity of foreign policy theory has been revived in realist circles since the Iraq War. See John J. Mearsheimer, "Hans Morgenthau and the Iraq war: realism versus neo-conservatism," May 19, 2005, and Mohammed Nuruzzaman, "Beyond the Realist Theories: 'Neo-conservative Realism' and the American Invasion of Iraq," preliminary draft of a paper presented at the 2005 Canadian Political Science Association (CPSA) annual conference held in London, Ontario, June 2-4.
  24. Bill Keller, "The Sunshine Warrior," The New York Times, September 22, 2002. Also see Hedley Bull's "International Theory: The Case for a Classical Approach,", and Morgenthau's Scientific Man vs. Power Politics.
  25. This doesn't just apply to people like Harb, who just broadcast propaganda, but those who make up the propaganda and "intelligence" itself. For instance, the INC's now defunct chieftain Ahmad Chalabi. When queried about the stories his INC concocted for the US media, he had the audacity to say: "As far as we're concerned, we've been entirely successful. That tyrant Saddam is gone, and the Americans are in Baghdad. What was said before is not important. The Bush administration is looking for a scapegoat. We're ready to fall on our swords if he wants. We are heroes in error." (Quoted in Jack Fairweather, "Heroes in Error," Mother Jones.)